Identification and Analysis (discussing the project as a whole, the customer needs, how to approach the project, decision making)
The American Mask Alliance (customer) approached Pallet Alliance with a need for pallets to ship cartons of masks to different sites across the U.S. The unique part of the request was that this was a newly formed company that built a manufacturing presence and emerged in 2020, allowing for Pallet Alliance to be on the ground floor to help with their shipping efficiency. Since this was the beginning of a new product line, there were no set pallet specs or shipping tendencies, and Pallet Alliance was in a position to help develop these with the customer.
Instead of quoting the most available or most common pallet size from Pallet Alliance’s manufacturing base, we had the chance to dig deeper and consider many palletization options for the customer. We were able to look at the packaging spend as a whole, rather than only focusing on providing the cheapest pallet.
Pallet Alliance took the approach of evaluating the whole packaging spend by investigating the individual components of the unit load of masks (pallet, cartons, shipper boxes and material handling) to see how one change would affect the other components.
Specific Case Details
American Mask Alliance sells surgical masks, and these masks are shipped to their customers through full unit loads. The masks are packed into a carton, cartons are then packed into a shipper box, and then shipper boxes are arranged on a pallet to be loaded into a truck for shipment.
Step one for Pallet Alliance was to understand the above supply chain requirements and limitations. This pointed us into the direction of what packaging is fair game to be adjusted within the unit load. To find out this info we asked questions like:
– What are the stacking height limitations in your supply chain?
– What regions are you shipping to?
– What warehouse storage methods do you use?
– Any special customer requirements?
All important information in determining:
– How much total weight the pallet will have to carry
– What size/features the pallet will have to have
– How much total weight the bottom shipper box will have to hold
– What safety factor should be applied for stacking corrugated boxes given the customers supply chain
This was the important step of creating the engineering requirements that the unit load would have to meet to ensure no product damage or unit load failures would occur. Now having the performance requirements identified, Pallet Alliance had a framework to begin designing. In order to identify potential design solutions to ship surgical masks safely and cost-effectively, we stepped back and asked what components of the unit load can be adjusted. Pallet Alliance established that we could 1) change pallet size, 2) box stacking pattern, and 3) corrugated box board grade.
Part Two: Development, Design, Potential Solutions
Before analyzing design options, benchmark performance criteria were established for box stacking strength and pallet stacking capacity. Unit load engineering software BestLoad was used to determine an adequate safety factor for box compression strength given American Mask Alliance’s supply chain, box specifications and pallet specifications. Pallet engineering software Pallet Design System was used to determine possible box layouts and pallet sizes.
After looking at the initial data, Pallet Alliance established we could consider 1) adjusting pallet size, 2) adjusting box stacking pattern, and 3) adjusting corrugated box board grade to come up with the most economical and safe solution to palletize. Combining all of our box material and pallet design options, we reviewed nine unit load options to evaluate economically and structurally for American Mask Alliance.
Pallet Designs Considered
– 48 x 40 Recycled GMA
o Due to the low pallet cost of a recycled GMA pallet
– 44 x 44 Remanufactured 6 top deck board.
o A “Pinwheel” layout of the boxes efficiently fits a 44 x 44 size
– 44 x 44 Remanufactured 4 top deck board.
o A “Pinwheel” layout of the boxes efficiently fits a 44 x 44 size.
Box Designs Considered
The shipper dimensions were set in stone, but Pallet Alliance investigated the corrugated material itself—in particular, the “board grade”, which is related to the density of how much material is in the corrugated liners. The board grade is a partial influence of how much weight/products can be stacked in storage, but this also influences the cost of the shipper box.
– 32 ECT C
– 29 ECT C
– 32 ECT B
We plugged these into our engineering software to eliminate options by comparing box compression strengths and pallet capacity in the different unit load scenarios to our established benchmarks.
Unit load combinations considered with box compression strength analysis:
Analysis Finding 1
Stacking on a GMA inefficiently used the pallet area. Only 3 columns of shipper boxes could be stacked as opposed to 4 columns of boxes on a 44 x 44 remanufactured pallet.
Analysis Finding 2
Pallet gaps were too large on a four top board 44 x 44 pallet; it negatively impacted the stacking strength of the box. Two of our box material options would not meet performance criteria and therefore were eliminated. The third box option for this pallet design was ruled out due to stacking stability because there is a limited amount of surface support area for the box.
Analysis Finding 3
The stacking layout of the shipper boxes on a GMA pallet did not support some of the box’s corners. This is a critical area of a corrugated box for stacking strength. Therefore, more material (better board grade) was needed for the box to meet our engineering requirements.
Pallet Alliance filtered out the unit load options that did not meet the structural requirements of the supply chain, narrowing down the possible solutions. The last phase completed was a financial analysis to pinpoint the best option for AMA’s needs.
Instead of opting for the lowest-priced pallet and box individually, Pallet Alliance weighed the total delivered packaging cost, hoping to unmask hidden savings stretching past pallet cost. Pallet Alliance investigated elements such as:
– Pallet cost
– Box cost
– Freight cost
– How many boxes would be shipped on a pallet size
– How many masks would be shipped on a full truckload delivery
Since all box board grades structurally checked out for the 6 board 44×44 pallet size and 48×40 pallet size, there was no advantage/disadvantage financially from the box cost, leaving only the pallet and freight costs to be investigated.
The 48×40 GMA pallet option, which is the most recycled pallet size in the industry, was cheaper to purchase. However, only 18 boxes could fit per pallet, meaning a fewer number of boxes could ship per full truck load.
– 468 boxes/FTL
– 26 pallets/FTL
The 44×44 remanufactured pallet was slightly more expensive because it is remanufactured from recycled boards, but this pallet size fits 24 boxes and 2 additional unit loads in the trailer, allowing for a higher number of boxes of masks being shipped per full truck load.
– 678 boxes/FTL
– 28 pallets/FTL
AMA’s optimized unit load design, which cubed out instead of weighed out the trailer, was a 32 ECT B shipper box and a slightly more expensive 44×44 pallet. This solution produced a lower delivered packaging cost per mask because 210 more boxes could be delivered with a slightly more expensive custom pallet.